I just returned from the Aspen Ideas Festival in (you guessed it!) Aspen, Colorado. Among the many engaging sessions I attended with brilliant, interesting speakers and panelists was one focused on Entrepreneurship in the year 2012.
Everyone agreed that one of the essential ingredients critical for entrepreneurs to be successful is getting uncomfortable in some way. The reason is because doing things outside of your normal comfort zone activates parts of the brain that stimulate creativity and problem solving.
And given that the problems we’re facing in our world are getting more and more complex, you need to perform at your optimum level to make your important contributions—and stimulating a free flow of luminous, brilliant creative ideas is central to your success.
I found this to be particularly timely, because the morning of the same day I attended the Entrepreneurship session, I had done just that. Done something outside of my norm.
I hiked straight up Aspen Mountain, from the base of the gondola at 7908 feet to the Skydeck, a restaurant at 11,212 feet—and I did this in just over two hours.
In my everyday life I play with my kids, I walk my dog, I do yoga, I exercise, but I don’t hike up mountains! In fact, I hadn’t hiked up a mountain of any kind since my husband and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on our honeymoon ten years ago.
And in doing so – in climbing up the steep and rocky dirt trail, straight up to the top of Aspen Mountain, I realized why it’s so important to try new activities and stimulate yourself in different ways.
During my hike, every single one of my senses—and even my intuition—were awake and heightened. And I also felt like my creative juices had been spiked with some special potion that gave me super-human clarity.
More specifically, throughout my hiking experience, I had a huge number of realizations about what to keep in mind when taking a path less traveled. And I wanted to share three of those realizations with you here:
When moving forward toward your vision, it’s not only important to have your next bold goal in mind, but to break up your forward progression into tangible, manageable smaller steps.
Hiking up the mountain was part of my path, moving toward my vision of continually breaking through to higher and higher levels of performance. My immediate bold goal was to get to the top of the mountain, and I knew the rewards would be taking in the gorgeous summertime view and enjoying a delicious lunch at the top!
But, I couldn’t go straight up without stopping. I had to take into consideration the altitude’s affect on my lung capacity. So, I continually sought out the next grassy knoll or interesting rock as a milestone, to stop and rest to catch my breath.
- What is your broader vision?
- What is your own next bold goal?
- What is the next step you’re taking toward that goal?
Own your choices and don’t second guess yourself.
I could have paid $21 and taken the gondola up. It certainly would have been easier, if not cheaper. (Hiking up and taking the gondola down is free.) And I would have still been able to take in the incredible view at the top while eating a nice lunch.
I could have hiked the much longer but less steep Ute Trail, or walked the switchbacks of the summer road that cuts across the slopes where skiers fly downhill in the snowy winter months. Each of those options would have still been quite a workout, and provided an incredible experience of the natural scenery.
But, I chose a different route. For most of the hike, I was loving the experience—my blood pumping, feeling the sun shining on my skin, acutely aware of how amazing it is to be alive.
Yet every once in awhile, that voice of doubt creeped in: could I really do it? Should I turn back and go down? Should I hitch a ride on the back the next truck I saw? What was I thinking, climbing a mountain by myself? Etc, etc.
My advice to you: don’t second guess yourself! There are enough naysayers out there in the world—people who are protecting their own fears and worries onto you—the last thing you need is to join them singing their “let’s play it safe and be average” chorus.
Any voice of doubt or criticism—whether inside you or from the outside—is like a virus that wants to weaken you. The more you give in, the more likely it will win. Instead, keep in mind your bigger picture vision. Remember your bold goal. Know why you made the choice you made and own it!
And one at a time, take your next step forward, focusing on your breath, moving toward that next grassy knoll or interesting rock (i.e., your next small step toward your bold goal).
- Whose voices are dominant in your head?
- How are you second-guessing yourself or encouraging yourself?
- What internal or external voices of doubt or criticism can you let go of?
Pause for perspective.
Every once in awhile—sometimes when I reached that next grassy knoll or interesting rock, and sometimes well before that—I stopped. I took a few minutes to look down the mountain at my progress, to catch my breath, and to celebrate my progress.
Three or four times on the way up, when I paused to get some perspective, I decided to make a small adjustment in my trajectory. Other times, I stuck close to the footpath of grass, rocks, and dirt. Without any external guide, I listened to my breath and used my intuition to guide me.
Sure, there were a few seemingly-wrong turns. But, later on, I realized there was no one right way to ascend the mountain. My way was perfect in the moment. And I made it to the top.
Another wonderful benefit of pausing for perspective was that I caught glimpses of the wild life around me: the mama mule deer and her babe, the hawk circling over a stand of trees, the quirky ground squirrels dashing here and there, the butterflies, the summer flowers with blooms of white and blue and yellow, the busy bees drinking in the nectar of those flowers, and so on.
- When was the last time you paused to check your progress?
- Did you decide to stay on course, or to make a slight change in your trajectory?
- What did you appreciate or notice most when you took a moment to check-in with yourself and your direction?
When you own your business or practice—whether you officially consider yourself an entrepreneur or not—you are taking a road less traveled.
Where you are in your life and business right now is a result of all the choices you’ve made up until this point in your life—whether conscious or subconscious.
Taking the road less traveled can be very satisfying, but it can also be quite challenging. Remember that it’s important to stay true to your vision and continue to get outside your comfort zone to inspire your creative flow.
Allow yourself to be surprised at your inner strength!
If you’ve read this post and wondered what your vision actually is or how you got so completely off course. Or, you’re not sure what your next bold goal should be—or even how to go about creating those next steps, I invite you to get in touch with me.
Whether your next bold step forward is a breakthrough coaching session with me, or joining me for the Performance Breakthrough Retreat to Bali, it’s time for you to get clarity about your direction and what’s most important. It’s time for you to own your path and celebrate your successes. It’s time for you to perform at your optimum level so you can make your positive mark on the world!
In the end, I hiked from 7908 feet to 11,212 feet in just over two hours. I didn’t climb K2 or even get close to my ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro ten years ago, but it was as amazing experience and I felt great doing it!
And you can do it too—one step at a time, one breath at a time.